A rare Mughal gem-set jade-hilted dagger (peshkabz), North West India, 17th-18th century. Photo Sotheby's
the tapering curved watered-steel blade with broad flattened back chiselled and overlaid in gold with a pendant palmette, the dark-green jade pistol-grip hilt inlaid with scrolling tendrils of gold issuing floral rosettes, buds and leaves kundun-set with cabochon rubies and cut diamonds, velvet-covered wood scabbard; 40.5cm Estimate 60,000—80,000 GBP. Lot Sold 73,250 GBP
PROVENANCE: ex-Collection Robin Wigington, Stratford-upon-Avon, England
NOTE: The peshkabz is a form of dagger more prevalent in Afghanistan but which also gained some popularity in northern India. It is typically a weapon with a long single-edged blade tapering to a point and a hilt with no guard. They are known in northern India from examples decorated in mother-of-pearl, one in the Musée Guimet and the other formerly in the collection of Krishna Riboud (inv. no. MA6825, the latter published Paris 1998, p.106, no.33). The decoration of plaques of mother-of-pearl associates these daggers with Gujarat in the seventeenth century.
This dagger, however, is a splendid testament to the long-standing proclivity of Indo-Islamic rulers to jewelled objects, the vast natural resources of the Subcontinent providing the necessary materials to enable this taste to flourish (Moura Carvalho 2010, p.11). The Mughal Empire sat within the areas most noted for the mining of rubies and spinels: Afghanistan, Burma and Sri Lanka (ibid., p.44). These stones were set into the jade using the ancient Indian technique known as kundan with a setting covered in a thin foil of an alloy of silver and pure gold, to reflect the maximum amount of light back through the set stone (ibid., p.39). The trefoil flower motif found along the back-edge of the present dagger's hilt can also be seen on two seventeenth-century daggers in the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait (see Keene 2001, p.43, no.2.31 and p.127, no.10.5).
A jade-hilted dagger, India, 18th century. Photo Sotheby's
the gently curved watered-steel blade with pale jade hilt comprised of two sections with scroll quillons and rounded pommel, cloth-covered wood scabbard with silver openwork chape and lock, turned bud terminal and foliate suspension loop; 37cm. Estimate 7,000—9,000 GBP. Lot Sold 11,875 GBP
Sotheby's. Arts of The Islamic World, 06 Apr 11, London www.sothebys.com